Growth & Change Are Highly Overrated by Tom Starita Genre: Humor, Satire
Growth & Change Are Highly Overrated is a twist on the classic coming-of-age story that takes a unique and comic look at what we all fear— having to grow up and abandon our dreams.
For a charismatic man like Lucas James, life is a breeze because everyone else provides the wind. This adolescent front man for a mediocre cover band has been mooching off of his fiancée, Jackie, for years until she finally decides she's had enough. Faced with reality and having no income to support his carefree lifestyle, Lucas James abandons his principles and gets a job working in the stockroom at "That Store." How does he cope with this new found sense of responsibility?
He casually steals...
After a life spent bucking authority, how will Lucas James deal with his manager, 'Victor the Dictator'? How long can he tolerate Ralph, a starry-eyed coworker who desires nothing more than to be best friends? Will Lori, a twenty-something cashier, be like everyone else and fall for his charms? Will he ever find a place to live? And is "growing up" just another way of saying "selling out"?
My brother Eddie would never let me play with his friends. It didn’t matter if they were one short for a football game or had to use a trash can as the goalie, there was no way Eddie was letting me in with him and his gang. Some might say I chose music over sports because of the constant refusal by my older brother to let me join in on the fun. The old “I’ll show him” deal. Eddie was never the supportive, nurturing type, but we’ll get to that eventually. This is my story.
When you’re a kid, there is nothing better than summer nights, especially when you live on a raucous block like we did. This particular story took place when I was nine years old. The Fourth of July had recently passed, and there was still evidence of a celebration randomly scattered on the street and by the curbs. The residents of Stieg Road had finished their dinner, and the block was alive with nighttime activity. Neighbors were gathered on stoops, little kids were running around playing tag, Franky played with the toys of our next-door neighbor, and my older brother, Eddie, had resumed the stickball game he and his friends had been playing all afternoon.
Where was Lucas James?
I was desperate to play with my big brother and his loser friends. They didn’t feel the same, so I sat there, watching them have their fun. Like I said, this was the norm, and I decided I had to do something brash to win them over. I had to do something that would impress them, something that would earn their begrudging respect and, perhaps, result in them carrying me down the street on their shoulders in celebration while Eddie crossed his arms and cursed as dust kicked up in his face.
For weeks I thought of what I could do to win their approval, some kind of feat of strength or daredevil maneuver that would change everything. Nothing I could think of was impressive enough or unbelievable enough to make them change their minds about little Lucas James. Then, that night at dinner it came to me.
I could jump over a moving car.
Now I know how it sounds, but trust me, I worked out the physics well ahead of time. And by well ahead of time, I mean during dinner.
We lived on a residential street with stop signs on either end. If a car was doing thirty down our block he was called Mario Andretti by the neighbors. To this day I have no idea why a speeding motorist was mocked with an Italian name. Most of the time the passing traffic was made up of leisurely cars taking their leisurely time while the kids on the street waited impatiently for them to pass.
When the stickball game resumed after dinner, I made sure to get a prime seat—the green cable box protruding from our little strip of grass by the curb. The older kids called where I was sitting “the clit,” something that later on made much more sense. This spot was aligned with home plate, and when Eddie saw me sitting there his displeasure was apparent. Like I said, he didn’t want me remotely near him and his friends. The only thing that saved me from an “Eddie Special”—five rabbit punches to the shoulder and one to the stomach—was my mom, who heard Eddie yelling and told him I wasn’t hurting anyone sitting there on the box, and he should leave me be.
I knew right then and there I was dead meat. Not only had I defied Eddie, but I had inadvertently gotten Mom involved, embarrassing him in front of his friends. There were a couple of “Eddie Specials” in my future. Unless, of course, I pulled off my death-defying stunt and changed the course of history.
I let a couple of cars pass, gauging their speed. I also watched the guys as they waited for the cars to pass. Someone would spot the vehicle coming down the block and creatively yell, “Car!” Invariably, the cars came at the worst times, like base hits in the gap, runners rounding third, the kind of plays that were impeded by an automobile meandering across the infield. Once the car left the playing area, someone came up with the bright idea to yell out the phrase, “Game on,” and chaos ensued.
Finally, during the bottom of the eighth inning, it was my time to shine. Eddie roped a double into the gap, and it was now second and third with one out and Bryan Shannon waiting to hit as the tying run. In the outfield, deep down the block because Shannon could mash, Al Susto yelled “Car” and everyone moved to the side, waiting for the car to pass.
I leaned forward on the green box, planting my left foot at the edge of the curb while my right foot nervously tapped the ground, anticipating the next step. I was going to rush out to home plate and perfectly time my leap at the exact moment the car arrived. This felt like a foolproof plan, forgetting for a second the possibility that I was a bigger fool than previously considered.
When we’d finished dinner that night, I had gone in my room to practice my leaping ability. After a couple of practice jumps, I managed to hold my body in the air almost a full second. The way I figured, if I could do that in my bedroom with no pressure and, more important, no adrenaline, I could definitely hold my jump at least three or four more seconds. As I understood it, adrenaline basically gave people superpowers, like when mothers lifted up cars with their bare hands to save their babies. The way I figured, there was nothing to worry about. Not only could I jump and have access to secret superpowers—the cars cruised down the block! Although I knew people were going to say this was the greatest stunt of all time, I knew the truth: it wasn’t a big deal.
Finally it was time. My date with destiny had arrived. The car was coming down the block and unknowingly driving into immortality. The moment I took off was the moment I also realized that the driver behind the wheel of this Toyota Camry was not obeying the normal conventions of suburban driving. He was going fast, much faster than anticipated. I could already hear several adults enunciating the first syllable in the phrase “Mario Andretti,” each trying to get that cheap laugh. The way my subconscious understood science, a faster car made the whole thing not only more impressive, but easier than I originally thought. After all, if the car was going faster I wouldn’t have to stay in the air three or four seconds. My one-second jump would be plenty enough as the car whizzed on by.
I can still see Bryan mouth the words What the hell as I made my way to home plate at the exact moment the car reached the same spot. I jumped, and in my mind’s eye already envisioned this act of daredevilry being recorded in the annals of heroic events. I was going to be famous before I turned ten! I closed my eyes, jumped, and the next thing I knew…
I hit the windshield and was tossed high into the atmosphere until I hurdled horribly back down to the earth. I was a modern-day Icarus, careening off Mario Andretti’s car and plummeting to the pavement.
The next tangible thought to light up the synapses and neurons in my brain occurred sometime in the middle of the night. I woke up, in excruciating pain, unsure of my surroundings. So I did what any nine-year-old boy would do when faced with such a harrowing environment: I cried.
That was the cue my mother needed to come racing over, screaming, cursing, crying, kissing, a million different emotions all pouring forth at once. I was in the hospital. My stunt had broken my left collarbone, left wrist, sprained my left ankle and right wrist, given me a slight concussion, and there were lacerations all over my face. I was lucky I wasn’t killed. I moved my head slightly to the left and saw Eddie and Franky staring at me from a couple of chairs. I could tell by the streaks on his face and his red, puffy cheeks Franky had been crying. Eddie looked the way Eddie always looked when it came to me—pissed. I had ruined his game, and now he was stuck in a hospital staring at his stupid brother sleeping for hours. I’d go into more of Eddie and his reactions, but this isn’t his story so we’ll get to him a little bit later.
While my mother explained to me the stupidity of my decision and implored me to tell her what the hell I was thinking and made me promise to never do such a stupid thing ever again, I could think of only one thing: I’m famous.
The epilogue to that story involves a lawyer who saw dollar signs, an injured nine-year-old, and an easily manipulated legal system. Despite my own stupidity, the driver, who it turned out wasn’t Italian, saw the writing on the wall and settled out of court with us. Later on, I found out that money helped us get through a rocky couple of years. Did my mom ever thank me for sacrificing myself for the good of the family? Of course not.
Naturally, I became a legend in the neighborhood and at school. Eventually, the story spiraled out of control to where I landed on the roof of the car, surfed down the block, and only got hurt because the car crashed into a fence. I milked that bad boy with the girls all the way to high school.
I tell you this tale not as a note of caution, because I don’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to try to mimic my stupidity. Although I suppose for legal reasons I should tell you to not be a fucking idiot. No, I say these words in order for you to grasp the premise of how my mind works. I would put myself in front of impending doom if it meant possible fame and fortune. With an outlook like that, no wonder I was drawn to the bright lights of rock and roll.
Tom Starita is the author of two novels, "Two Ways to Sunday" and "Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated" and makes an impact on everyone he encounters. When asked for her thoughts about him, Oprah Winfrey said, "Who?" Tom Hanks refused to respond to an email asking for a quote and former Mets great Mookie Wilson once waved to him from a passing taxi.
Originally from Staten Island, NY Starita has now found a home in the beautiful beach community of Stratford, Connecticut with his wife Shannon and their dog Lola. He remains a loyal fan of the New York Mets.
Thanks for stopping by. Punch and pie will be served shortly. While we wait for those delectable desserts to arrive, perhaps you’re wondering who I am or why you should bother reading my outstanding, critically praised, rumored to be endorsed by the Queen of England novel “Growth & Change Are Highly Overrated.” If Marvel has taught me anything, it’s the importance of a good origin story. Therefore, here is the true tale of Tom Starita. Enjoy untangling this large ball of yarn.
"The Undeniably False, Yet Impossibly True Story of Tom Starita"
My birth was both expected and celebrated. Somewhere off Route 4 in the nether regions of Norman, Oklahoma, there is a sign proclaiming, “TOM Starita fell here,” but we’ll get to the reasons why later on. My mum, a young, twenty-two-year-old Scottish lass named Kathy, worked the counter at “Porky’s Pork Chop” diner. My father, Bill, a seventy-nine-year-old Australian immigrant, owned a rather successful brass mining company, aptly named “Bill’s Got Brass.” He chased after my mother for years, with little to no success due to two reasons—the first being a fifty-five-year gap in age. Second, my mum’s parents were vehemently opposed to their daughter dating an aborigine from the outback.
Despite the obstacles, Bill never gave up hope that one day this woman would bear his seed. Once a month for three years, Bill sent flowers, candy, balloons, singing telegrams, mime-o-grams, pajamas, the meat of the month club, named a star after her, buffalo heads, buffalo tails, and other exciting and enticing gifts with no luck whatsoever. It wasn’t until he sent a nine-pound box of potatoes, accidentally containing a brass fixture inside, that things began to change. Because they were firmly anti-Bill, my grandparents never inquired about what my father did for a living. The moment they realized he had access to unlimited brass and a large bank account, my grandfather drove Kathy over to his house in his 1975 Bristol 412, aka The Lemonhead.
Two weeks later, marriage.
Two months later, a positive stripe.
And on August 18th, 1978, all their alleged dreams and wishes were fulfilled. My soon to be parents were driving down Route 4 when Kathy felt the intense pressure associated with childbirth. Bill spotted a friendly patch of grass and pulled the car over to the side. There they were, alone, listless like a breakfast table in an otherwise empty room. There were no cell phones back then, nor any passing vehicles. It was up to my dad now to get the job done. Thankfully, his Australian heritage spoke to his soul. His people had delivered countless kangaroo births; this would be no different.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, in a small town in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, a young farmer named Phillip sat in the barn, milking his cow. Phillip was a deaf man, had been and always would be — and he relied on the vibrations coming off from the cow to guide the milking process.
Suddenly, a bright light filled the room — even though it was already day. Phillip shielded his eyes and found himself staring at the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Phillip immediately dropped to his knees in worship.
“Hark,” The angel said. And Philip, a poor lip reader, merely stared since he didn’t know the word hark. The angel stared back at Phillip.
“Hark!” Phillip blinked a couple of times.
“HARK!” The angel cried in a booming voice. Phillip, now completely petrified, crawled into a ball and began to sob.
“Forget it,” and the angel left.
Less than thirty seconds after the angel departed from Phillip’s sight; I was born, squirting out like a water gun filled with cheese whiz. My father, expecting the slimy birth of the kangaroo instead of the slippery birth of a human, fumbled the handoff. I fell out of his hands and into a robin’s nest, which just so happened to be laying directly in front of my dad — who was too locked in on my mom’s pristine Netherlands to notice. Years later, locals put up the famous “TOM Starita fell here” sign as well as the souvenir stand to properly grift the men and women who make the pilgrimage.
Fun Fact: TOM Starita merchandise account for 82% of the entire economy of Norman, Oklahoma.
Following the afterbirth, Bill wanted to name me after his favorite uncle —Paul —but my mother wanted nothing to do with it. She preferred the name Jake, but dad knew a guy back home named Jake, who had a curse placed on him by some Aborigines and was afraid that the curse would somehow transfer over to me. Their marriage had hit its first bump in the road, and there seemed no bridging this significant gap. Fortunately for me, they had apple sauce.
You see, my parents loved apple sauce, the side dish that moonlighted as a main dish in their home. A staple at dinner, it could also be found at breakfast and even a midnight snack. But apple sauce wasn’t simply food — it was a lifestyle.
My mom used it as a facial wash, believing the apples to have rejuvenating properties. My dad bathed in a large drum filled with apple sauce twice a week, believing the apple pheromones (or applemones as he called them) gave him the ability to be a better businessman. His rationale? Everyone loved apple sauce; everyone loved the smell of apple sauce, and therefore if you smelled apple sauce on a man, you knew you could do business with him.
On one particular Thursday, three months into my still nameless life, my father had a tough day and didn’t feel like talking much during dinner. My mother, feeling ignored, asked him to pass the apple sauce. When my father reached for the jar, he saw the label reflected in his glass:
(I failed to mention my father had an acute form of dyslexia, in which words would appear however was most convenient to my story)
Immediately he stood up and announced that their son should have the honor of being named after the greatest food ever invented. And that’s how I got the name TOM.
Life was perfect. Dad’s company boomed, and as a result, he was able to spoil his family. They had the largest house in town, three cars, a name finally picked out for me, a pond reasonably filled with koi fish, and no ceiling on their future.
Until the brass fields of Tecumseh dried up.
I was two years old and can vaguely remember my parents near the soon-to-be-diminished koi pond speaking in a mixture of screams and panic about their future, or suddenly their lack thereof. Tecumseh's brass fields were only the biggest in the state of Oklahoma, if not the entire southeast. Thousands of families depended on their consistent production of brass; millions worldwide took for granted all the fixtures, doorknobs, and pipes created via these magical fields. No one knows why exactly the fields suddenly died. The only certainty was with no brass to sell to the various companies; dad was forced to liquidate his assets, sell the company, relinquish the remaining koi, and get a handyman’s job at the local YMCA. The house, the cars, the fish, everything vamoosed.
From millionaires to chumps in a matter of days.
Because my dad no longer had access to brass, or famous celebrities, or money, my grandparents refused to help them. Dad, being a resourceful man, did what any man in his position would do. He dragged his family to the famous Oklahoma rainforest and built us a treehouse. There we lived for three months, as time, resources, and love all seemingly circled the drain. We were down to our last jar of apple sauce when someone knocked on our tree. My dad scaled-down the rope and encountered two beatniks from New York. Being a man of the land, my dad did not trust two individuals wearing berets and smoking filtered cigarillos inside obscenely long cigarette holders. He gestured wildly, like a pissed-off orangutan forced to dance at the zoo. The beatniks stood firm and produced a suitcase full of money.
My dad stopped his flailing.
The two beatniks had solved his problem. My dad reached for the handle, but the male beatnik wagged his index finger back and forth. This wasn’t a donation; this was a business transaction.
They wanted to buy me.
But this was no mere shady adoption. The beatniks had another idea. A darker idea. They didn’t want me for a son. They wanted me as an ottoman.
For you see, the beatniks had a vision. The eighties had come roaring in, and so had Reagan capitalism. Nothing screamed obnoxious Avante garde more than using children as furniture. It was the perfect marriage of art, décor, life, and envy.
And I was to be the centerpiece to their home, the keystone, the Feng to their feng shui.
My dad, seeing no other recourse, snatched the suitcase and scaled the rope like a ring-tailed lemur before the Beatniks could change their minds. They brought me to New York to spend the rest of my early childhood as a talking piece at dinner parties.
I could tell you all about my time there: the scarring on my lower back from Mrs. Beatnik’s
Chunky-heeled huarache-style shoes, my struggle to this day with the smell of an old loafer and most important of all, how I escaped due to a well-placed poster and a rock hammer, but I choose to seal those memories shut behind their own cement wall. Instead, I’ll fast forward to my victory on the steps of the Capital. With the help of the three Day Time Dynamos: Oprah, Donahue, and Sally Jesse Raphael, I secured my freedom and became the face of the 1983 bipartisan bill signed by President Reagan, “Children Are Not Furniture—Its Simply True,” otherwise known as CAN FIST.
Fast forward nearly forty-odd years later; I’m a two-time published author.
God bless America.
“Growth & Change Are Highly Overrated” wasn’t intended to be used as a self-help book. It is not guaranteed to change your life, your interactions with other human beings, or how you see the world.
I spoke to Andrew Carnegie—not the steel tycoon but the solar salesman who happened to ring my bell earlier today, and he mentioned feeling lost. Lacking a purpose. Maintaining a will to live. I mentioned my precious novel, and now as of this writing, he is considering getting into the steel industry.
If that doesn’t convince you to click my link and buy my book, I don’t know what will. Perhaps some punch and pie? Send me your address, and I’ll make sure to stuff an envelope full of punch and pie and send it on your way.
Anywho, we’ve come to the point of the story where there is no clear ending or simple way to wrap things up. Instead of dragging this carcass another couple of miles, how about we end with this?
I pledge allegiance
To the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic
For which it stands
With liberty and justice for all
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